Not everyone bought TV Times solely to find out when Exit! It's The Way-Out Show was on, and the magazine's editors knew exactly how to keep their more casual readers hooked. You can only get three pages maximum out of Bruce Forsyth in a comedy oversized chef's hat making something out of 'leftovers', though, so more often than not, several dozen of the others would be taken up by largely non-TV-related 'human interest' stories concerning cute and/or daredevil animals of varying breeds and species.
Yes, it was lavish photo spreads of Light Entertainment stars and their pets 'at home', salutes to Great Danes that saved a school by skateboarding to the police, and mind-numbingly tedious drivel about horses nobody's interested in all the way, and all of it written in a blithe and simplistic language that makes the corresponding Radio Times features about how whoever may have vaguely mentioned 'space' in a programme that week was 'Out Of This World!' look like the later works of William H. McNeill. And that's not even getting started on the endless densely packed pages of adverts for pet food and grooming products. Which is why - you guessed it - we're going to be getting started on them right now. Top breeders probably wouldn't recommend it, but yah boo sucks to them frankly.
It was to say the least unusual for a story directly involving both animals and - gasp - TV Stars to land fully formed and ready made on the editor's desk, and to get around this they would often fork out for a familiar small-screen face to have a day out somewhere both animal-heavy and amusing photo-inviting. Here Richard Hearne, 'TV's Mr Pastry', spends a day at Neverland Ranch and contrives a spot of comedy slapstick 'I have in my hand a piece of pa- oh you naughty llama you!' inconvenient camelidian letter-scoffage with a passing pair of llamas. Whatever was going on, we can assume it was probably slightly funnier than his latest falling-face-first-into-cake TV escapade.
Others of course were happy to be photographed at home with their pets alongside a single column of phatic chirpy drivel about being a pet owner that was probably just made up by the sub-editor. Here we see Picture Book presenter Patricia Driscoll as she feeds two of her cats. "The other three can get to fuck", quipped TV's Mad Marian.
Old Macdonald Daly had a TV documentary series, e-i-e-i-o. And on that documentary series he had an opportunity to expand on his popular series of books on the role of the dog in modern society, which probably sounds slightly dull and formal and archaic, but actually more or less served as the template for any modern-day mid-week hour-filler ITV flings out without a second thought or a single yearning for the days of Interceptor and Anything More Would Be Greedy. In order to promote this, TV Times arranged for him to write an article about how novel and revolutionary an idea it was to feature dogs in a television programme. Not that any of his 'stars' look particularly happy about it.
From the look of it, they would have been significantly happier had they been promised some Red Heart, which apparently puts real BEEF into your dog. The emphasis of 'beef' rather than 'real' suggests that we may have been living in slightly more innocent times, but it's nice to see some dogs demanding it in the manner of an uncontrollably carnivorous Frankie Howerd.
Well, hands up who knew that the makers of Top Cat also produced a variant for dogs? Top Dog - or, as it had to be renamed over here, Boss Dog - is bewilderingly promoted here as an ideal reward for a mutt who's gleefully chomped their way through your prized copy of The Dog Game by McDonald Daly. Possibly not the strongest of selling points, though the BBC were sufficiently wary of giving the manufacturers free publicity to continue cutting the Simpsons shorts out of The Phil Silvers Show long after the brand had ceased trading.
The unappetising-sounding Vetzyme save a couple of coppers on photographic processing by getting this to-the-point Pongo The Dragon From Rubovia-lookalike pencil sketch mutt to extol the virtues of their product, who closes with an enthusiastic exhortation to dog owners to try some of the tablets themselves. Well, there were a lot of shiny coats in the early seventies, to be fair.
Quite what food 'Tutankhamen', the lupine subject of this utterly pointless letter, was partial to is sadly not specified, but we do at least get the entertainingly mundane story of how he got his name (which presumably just edged out 'Receiver', 'Dial' and 'Uncooperative Two Pence Piece Thrown To The Floor In Anger'). The owners also kindly introduce us to 'Bambi' who they found on their way to see Bambi, 'Ming' who they found on their way to see Flash Gordon - The Deadly Ray From Mars, and 'Jason' who they found on their way to see Friday The 13th Part VIII - Jason Takes Manhattan.
Provided they can match the correct phrase to the correct canine visage, one lucky owner of a Winalot-scoffing hound could be walking away with their very own* Island In The Bahamas! (*as a tourist, for a week). The other poor sods, on the other hand, will win all of the accoutrements needed for taking on a good holiday, but not the actual holiday itself. Yes, what a consolation. Quite which combination the answers came in is sadly lost to history, although apparently the winning tie-breaker was "If my dog could talk, I think he'd say 'I like Winalot because NEVER EVER BLOODY ANYTHING EVER'".
Meanwhile, we are probably best not dwelling on this. 'Civilisation' indeed.
Far away from anything dog-related - unless they had some of those trapeze poodles wearing ruffs or whatever they are - Dickie Henderson is busy relating how he ended up joining a circus on account of his powers of unaided human flight. Let's just hope that Sylar hadn't turned up to see that car that falls apart. Anyway, join us again next time, when we'll be looking at some of the hot fashions of the day, and how they didn't find their way into TV Times. In the meantime, here's a gratuitous plug for my book Well At Least It's Free. Top readers recommend it because it's solid nourishment.